Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nha Trang

Cristina and I took a week off work to meet up with Tessa and Reuben, who made the California to Viet Nam trek. After a brief rendezvous in Ha Noi, we all flew down to Nha Trang, on the southern coast, for some serious R&R.

I'm not sure what "Nha Trang" translates to in English, but if it were to mean something approximating "As close to paradise as you're going to get in these parts" I wouldn't be surprised.

Nha Trang at night.

This blog isn't really up to the task of explaining the rather convoluted history of how Viet Nam arrived at its current state. However, for those of us raised on Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, and Platoon, it may come as a surprise to find out that there were seriously dramatic political shifts prior to the Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon administrations. The Vietnamese have been carving out this corner of the world for centuries. One of the previous inhabitants of southern and central Viet Nam were the Champas. The Champa kingdom was of Indian extraction, and was sanwiched between the Viet in the north and the Khmer in the south, and eventually got crushed by the Vietnamese. Before this, however, they built a whole bunch of cool structures that the tourist books call "Champa Towers." Above is a picture of the Po Nagar Champa tower.

Many of these temples feature "linga" which is a polite term for "sculptures of erect penises with an image of Shiva carved into it" (I'm not making this up). I would have taken a picture of the lingam at Po Nagar but there were people praying, so it didn't seem right.

The most famous pagoda in Nha Trang features a giant Buddha statue. Around the base are tributes to the monks who immolated themselves to protest the anti-Buddhist policies of the Ngô Đình Diệm administration.

The same pagoda features another statue of a reclining Buddha.

Cristina and Tessa on our island hopping boat tour, featuring a snorkelling session complete with several thousand jellyfish and a coral reef. The pain was minimal, the sight was impressive.

A coming storm.

Some dramatic lighting on the taxi ride to the airport as Cristina and I say goodbye to Nha Trang.

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